Posts Tagged ‘Outlaws’

13 Old West Outlaws


Thursday Thirteen #5

For this week’s Thursday Thirteen I thought it might be fun to delve into a bit of Outlawry. So, I offer you 13 Old West Outlaws and some information about each. Well…actually, it is slightly more than thirteen, but then how could I have Jesse James without his brother Frank?

Please remember to keep off the streets and out of the Saloons…and never draw to an inside straight.

1. Billy the Kid (1859-1881) – William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, was already fond of saloons and gambling places by the age of twelve. He had many friends, was quite popular with the ladies, and is said to have been a good dancer. When he died, he had killed a total of twenty-one people, including two deputies that had been guarding him earlier in the year. Those two he somehow managed to kill even though he was wearing both handcuffs and leg irons at the time. There are rumors that he did not in fact die in 1881 and no less than two men came forward in later years claiming to be Billy himself.

2. Frank and Jesse James – Jesse Woodson James (1847-1882) and Alexander Franklin James (1842-1915) were notorious bank and train robbers. During the Civil War both brothers rode with a guerrilla band of Confederate Soldiers. Eventually, with sizable rewards on their heads, Jesse was murdered by a new member of his gang as he stood on a chair in his house to straighten a picture. Frank turned himself in and was aquitted of all charges.

3. Butch Cassidy (1866-1910?/1937?) – Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, was a bank and train robber with the infamous Wild Bunch. He actually started out his career as a cattle rustler under the tutelage of a cowboy (and rustler) named Mike Cassidy who worked on the Parker family ranch. Butch took Mike’s name for himself when he struck out on his own. Also particularly well known for his skill at planning, Butch even planned robberies for other outlaws from time to time. Eventually, Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place moved to Argentina to escape capture. Did Butch die in South America in a shoot out, or did he change his name to William K. Phillips and move to Spokane, Washington? We may never know for sure.

4. Harry Longabaugh a.k.a. The Sundance Kid (1863?-1910?/1957?) – Harry Longabaugh was known as one of the fastest and most accurate gunmen in the West. Perhaps it is a good thing that he was also known to be a quiet man who did not constantly reach for his weapon. He gained his moniker after being imprisoned in Sundance, Wyoming at one point. He left the United States for Argentina with his friend Butch and girlfriend Etta when the authorities were getting to close for comfort. Eventually, Etta had to return to New York to be treated for appendicitis. Did Sundance leave her there and never return? Did he die in a Bolivian shoot out, or did he return to the United States, marry Etta, and die in 1957? The only way to know for sure would involve a spot of Time Travel.

5. Belle Starr (1848-1889) – Myra Belle Shirley was taught how to ride and shoot by her older brother Bud and was childhood friends with some of the Younger brothers. She was also an excellent student at the Carthage female academy. Contrary to her reputation as the Bandit Queen or the female Jesse James, Starr’s life was actually a great deal less glamorous. In 1866 she marries Jim Reed, who rode with the Younger gang. They had two children together before the marriage ended with his death. (She had already left him to go back to her family.) In 1880, Belle married Sam Starr (the son of Jim Reed’s old partner.) Belle did end up in prison for stealing horses and was known to hide fugitives and outlaws on her land. In the end, Belle was shot and killed. The crime was never solved, but the suspects ranged from her third husband to both of her children.

6. John King Fisher (1854-1884) – Being convicted of burglary at the age of sixteen was only the beginning. By 1879 he admitted to seven killings. He was never convicted for his supposed cattle rustling activities or any murders. In fact, after marrying his childhood sweetheart (they had four daughters together) he became a deputy sheriff of Uvalde County in the early 1880s. He ran for sheriff in 1884, but he was murdered before the election.

7. William “Bill” Doolin (1858-1896) – For a one time notorious outlaw of the Southwest, not much is recorded about Bill Doolin. He was a bank and train robber who rode for a time with the Dalton gang. After the gang’s disastrous raid on Coffeyville, Kansas, Bill formed his own gang and pretty much ran amok. They even killed three lawmen at one point. Doolin was eventually shot to death after breaking out of jail.

8. John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895) – Hardin was the son of a Methodist minister who named him after the founder of Methodism. During his long and checkered career he killed more than twenty people (some say as many as fifty.) He was eventually caught and imprisoned for the killing of Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb. While in prison he studied law and eventually opened a law office in El Paso, Texas a while after his release. (He married Callie Lewis first, but she left him only hours after the wedding.) On the night of 19 August 1895 in El Paso he was shot from behind by a former gunman, possibly due to a quarrel. He left behind an unfinished autobiography. Bob Dylan wrote a song about him that appended a “g” to Hardin’s name.

9. Sam Bass (1851-1878) – Sam Bass was just your average fellow living and working in the West until the day that he bought a race horse, or at least that’s what I’ve read. Well, I can understand running away from his Uncle’s farm at the age of eighteen. The man wasn’t paying him a cent for all of his hard work. Anyway, he started drinking and gambling. Eventually, Bass tried his hand at Stagecoach and Train robbery. Only his first train robbery ever really worked out for him. He gambled all of his ill gotten gains away anyway. A group of Texas Rangers finally killed him on his way to rob a bank. Quite the cautionary tale.

10. Charles “Black Bart” Boles (1829-1917?) – (My Father’s favorite Outlaw) Black Bart was a distinguished older gentleman who had spent time in the Union Army during the Civil War. He is particularly remembered, not only for his reputed 12-29 (actual number unknown) Stagecoach robberies during which he never fired a shot, but also for his unusual calling card. He would often leave behind a poem in the broken Wells Fargo safe that he had taken from the Stagecoach. One such poem was:

“here I lay me down to sleep
to wait the coming morrow
perhaps success perhaps defeat
and everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will, I’ll try it on,
My condition can’t be worse,
But if there’s money in the box,
It’s munny in my purse.
–Black Bart the PO 8”

11. William C. “Bloody Bill” Anderson (1840-1864) – Before the Civil war, not much is known about Bloody Bill. During the war he rode with a group that ended up becoming part of the infamous Quantrill’s Raiders then left to form a band of his own. He is the only person on this list who did not live to the end of the war. His train robbing and killing all took place during the Civil War. Andersons’s reputation for cold-blooded killing was deserved. He killed civilian and soldier alike. When the Union army finally caught up with him, the cut off his head and stuck it on a spiked telegraph pole.

12. John Peters Ringo (1850-1882) – After traveling to San Jose, California with his family, Ringo left for Texas and joined a rustler gang. In 1879 he tried to kill a gambler over a drink. In Arizona he joined yet another rustler gang that came up against the Wyatt Earp and his friends. Ringo was not at the O.K. Corral shoot-out with the rest of the gang. The following Summer, he committed suicide near Tombstone.

13. The Younger Brothers – Cole (1844-1916), Jim (1848-1902), John (1851-1874), and Bob (1853-1889) were from a family of fourteen children. Jim and Cole were both in the Confederate Army during the war. After the war all four brothers associated themselves with the James brothers and set about a string of robberies. John died of a wound incurred during a gunfight with Pinkerton Agents. Bob and Cole were injured during the ill-fated First National Bank robbery attempt, and then they were captured later along with Jim. Bob died in prison. Cole and Jim were paroled in 1901. After being unable to marry the girl he wanted to, due to parole legalities, Jim committed suicide. The remaining brother Cole was pardoned in 1903. For a while he ran a Wild West show with Frank James, then he tried lecturing on the evils of crime. He lived to be seventy-two.

The Biography Resource Center (Database available from Alameda County Library)
History Resource Center: U.S. (Database available from Alameda County Library)

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